DPS Spark Help File R 20 Vynny Ward, ZKad Productions
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[Last updated 12 July 2000: removed dead links]

The following information was compiled by Vynny Ward, ZKad Productions, over the course of a considerable period of time. Vynny has moved on from the Spark and wanted to free up space on his server, so I have reproduced it here with his kind permission. I will continue to keep it up-to-date as best possible, since I am still using the Spark and thus somewhat in touch with the developments thereof.

This document is aimed at demonstrating some procedures that Spark users have implemented to rectify problems with they may have had with the DPS Spark and Spark+ capture systems. Under certain, strict, criteria these cards do work and can work extremely well. Some of the information here may also be relevant for Adaptec firewire capture devices running Hot Connect Ultra, as well as other DV cards.
Remedies offered here are not complete, and this page will continue to be amended as new information is revealed. ZKad Productions are not implying that by using this information, problematic systems will be magically fixed. Some or none of the advice here may indeed help the running of the system, but it may also hinder it. The best initial course of action is to contact DPS as they are the producers of the Spark. Also note that the advice offered here is just that... advice. ZKad Productions cannot and will not be held responsible for any problems or data loss resulting from trying any or all of the methods put forward here. Please read the disclaimer at the end of this document before making changes.
> Enabling 512K of L2 cache with NT4
> Manually removing all Spark related files

> Benchpress for testing HD speeds
> DPS Spark App 2.01B3
> DPS Spark App 2.02B2 (latest beta)
> DPS Spark App 2.02 final


>Beepfix MSDOS program to help with audio beeps
>Diskeeper to aid defragmentation under NT
>Norton Utilities to aid defragmentation under NT
>Adaptec's Hot Connect Ultra files

Here's a checklist of settings, solutions and workarounds in no particular order. It may take a combination of changes to get the system running smoothly. If the Spark system doesn't adhere to the following rules though, then that's possibly why it won't work properly.


> Some systems have problems with NIC cards as it is a PCI bandwidth hog. Set up a separate Windows user account with the NIC disabled when editing. It may need to be removed altogether.

> A fixed swap file size should be set. To do this simply make the minimum and maximum virtual memory setting the same. Try setting it at 87% of the RAM that is installed (it should not be set at less than 48MB). Also try it at twice the RAM.

> If the swap file is set on a non-boot drive drive, always create a small one on the boot drive as well (minimum of 32MB). If the non-boot drive goes down without this extra swap file, Windows may not boot up at all.

> Win9x isn't ideal for use with the Spark; if all else fails, WinNT4sp3 should be tried.

> By default NT enables 256K of level 2 cache. Users of NT4 with 512K of L2 cache should manually inform NT about the extra memory by editing the registry. Info on that is found here.

> Also under NT, keep in mind that if a software application is installed and it subsequently asks you to reboot, or any new hardware is added, the current service pack should be re-installed. This is very important and ensures that vital NT system files are not overwritten by third party 'variants' and will prevent certain faults such as server storage errors.

> With Win9x, the provider of the 1394 Driver should be Adaptec not Microsoft. Ensure that this is the case by going to Start>Control Panel>System>Device Manager and selecting the 1394 controller. Go to Properties then Driver and select Update Driver. Finally select show all compatible drivers. Choose the latest version of Adaptec provided driver, then update the driver by using the update files from DPS's FTP site. 

> The footage must be captured onto and played off an approved SCSI AV drive.

> The AV drive should ideally be a separate disk from the boot drive - not a partition.

> For capture and playback, the AV drive must be able to sustain DV's continuous data rate of 3.6MB/s, but since background Windows applications may momentarily interrupt the process, 5MB/s minimum is recommended. Run Benchpress and ensure that the drive meets this standard.

> Enable read/write caching on the AV drive by using Adaptec's EZ-SCSI or similar.

> Point any DV software that utilizes scratch disks or a temporary file system to the AV drive. In Premiere, specify the scratch disk option "Same as project", and save projects onto the AV drive. All important speed sensitive files such as previews will then end up on the AV drive.

> The AV drive should not be compressed, either with NTFS compression or Win9x's DriveSpace. Set Windows Explorer to show compressed drives in a different color.

> All AV data should be on the AV drive before the edit session begins. Pulling WAVs, bitmaps and clips from other sources, even another drive on the same PC, can cause delays.

> Make sure that the drive has the correct firmware version.

> There should be at least 20% free space on all hard drives at all times to retain an efficient working system.

> Spark v2.00final - Has a hard time recognizing certain DV devices, and has capture problems.

> Spark v2.01final - Bugged! Causes 'Bad Format' errors that continue even after it has been uninstalled. Delete all AVIs created with this version and uninstall it immediately. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

> Spark v2.01beta1 - Don't uninstall it with Add/Remove as astonishingly it removes ALL video and audio drivers and DLLs!

> Spark v2.01beta3 - Considered to be one of the most reliable drivers. Windows 95 and Windows NT users should try this one first. Get it here.

> Spark v2.02beta2 - Latest beta. Possibly unstable, although some are having luck with it. Direct reports from DPS indicate a potential registry problem with Windows 98 - 2.02B2 may fix it. If captured filenames become garbled and messed up, try this release. Get it here.

> Spark v2.02 final - The release version of 2.02 beta 2. Get it here. The link is broken, go to http://www.dps.com, select Driver Update, and select DSP Spark Direct DV Editor.

> When changing Spark drivers it's probably not a bad idea to use the manual uninstall PDF from DPS.We have placed it on a page here.

> Spark with Premiere. When installing Spark and Premiere for the first time, ensure that Premiere is installed first as the Spark installation looks for edit packages such as Premiere and installs a small 'preset' so it's possible to output to the Spark codec. Although, the preset can be created manually if the packages have been installed in the wrong order.

> Premiere and VA users suffering from glitchy scrubbing or crashes should ensure that the Spark's drivers are set to `Output video to desktop only' and not `Output video to DV Device only' or `Output video to both'.

> 'Dirty' electricity or brownouts. Noticeable in offices with ACs or homes with white goods such as washing machines. An individual UPS back-up battery system for the edit PC helps.

> PCI problems. If installed, remove the NIC card. Also disable TSRs such as virus killers, screen savers and power management during edit sessions.

> Broken firewire cable or firewire connection. Very common. Try a different DV device and a new firewire cable.

> One specifically identified culprit is the Supercom motherboard. Check the date of the BIOS and, if necessary, download and flash the latest BIOS upgrade. Click here for Supercom's BIOS update page. Read all documentation before attempting to flash the MB.


> Caused by firewire transmissions of over modulated audio that exceeds the auto gain setting on the DV device. It often happens when a voice over is combined with a music track. Usually it's unnoticeable when editing, and only appears when finally outputting to tape. If the auto gain cannot be changed on the DV device (usually it can't) then the audio will have to be 'normalized'. To do this, render out the audio to a single WAV and normalize it using a sound editor such as Sound Forge or Goldwave. If that facility is not available, reduce the volume level during the edit with 10% decrements and re-render and test until the clipping stops.


> Sometimes randomly appear during capture, and some systems suffer more than others. Could be caused by electrical brownouts - see Firewire Resets above. Other potential culprits are dirty tape heads on the DV device or a slightly damaged DV tape.

> Windows 9x users may want to try Beepfix, an MS-DOS based application that purportedly automates the beep removal process from a captured AVI. When we last tried it, it didn't work under Windows NT though. 

> It is also possible to remove the beeps manually by using a sound editor such as Sound Forge or Goldwave. No other remedies are known at this time.

> In a recent DPS forum posting it was revealed that the following may help with audio pops. Go to Settings>Control Panel>Multimedia>Devices>Audio Compression Codecs. Double click on Microsoft PCM Converter to go to it's properties. Change the priority to 1 and ensure "Use this codec" is selected. Finally press the 'apply' button.


> ALL video clips must have an audio track, even if it's silent. 

> Audio tracks must be rendered to the same sample rate. 

> Create a ten second clock at the beginning of the playlist, as it can take the Spark's playlist facility a few seconds to 'get up to speed'. Premiere 5.1 has a built in feature to do this. Don't forget to add a silent audio track to it as well.


> This problem may be remedied by setting the desktop resolution to 800x600 256 colors during capture and playback. Under Win9x, setting the graphic acceleration to zero might help as well. None of this should adversely alter the final images output to tape.

> Ensure that no other programs are running during capture and playback, this includes TSR software such as virus killers and power management utilities.

> After a long (Premiere) render, the system sometimes may take a little time to close the large AVI on the AV drive. It's a good idea to wait a few seconds for this operation to complete before attempting to play the footage back over the firewire.

> Play the clip once just on the computer monitor, without sending it through the firewire. When this initial playback has been completed, often the clip can then be successfully sent to the DV device, as the system will have cached a sufficient portion of the clip to cover interruptions or slow hard drives.

> If the system has a FastTrak RAID  then try going to Device Manager, SCSI Controllers, Promise Technology Inc. FASTTRAK Controller, Properties, Settings, and check to make sure the Adapter Settings box reads "TRANSFERMODE=2;COUNTTHRESHOLD=128;". If it doesn't, go to Control Panel, UltraTune, select "Audio/Video Editing" and move the "PCI bus utilization" slider all the way to "Less".

> The system may have a fragmented hard drive. Try defragging the AV drive; under Windows 9x select Start>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragmenter. Unfortunately, Windows NT doesn't come with a defragmentation package, so a third party one will have to be purchased. Two good ones are Diskeeper and Speed Disk, part of Norton Utilities for NT. Ensure that the drive is supposed to be defragged; some RAID drives should not be defragged with third party software.

> Initial feedback indicates that NT users should steer clear of service pack 4 and possibly service pack 5. These later service packs may install certain DirectDraw elements from DX5/6 over service pack 3's DX3. This may contribute to jerky playback, or failed playback after a few seconds or minutes. Unfortunately, uninstalling the service pack may not be sufficient to remove the problem, and a fresh NT install may be necessary. If the system works okay with sp3 then upgrading to sp4/sp5 may not be the best move.

> NT users try formatting the AV drive as FAT not NTFS. Doing so will limit you to 4GB partitions, but may increase the drive's speed sufficiently.

> Check for a power supply problem; if the drive is internal check the cable, if the drive is external check the PSU for power. 


> It's an OS problem, not a DPS Spark one. Currently it is not possible to create a single file larger than 2GB (approximately nine minutes and thirty seconds of DV) with Windows or MacOS. Set up a batch capture list to grab the rushes in over lapping chunks. 


> If the system has problems playing back an AVI larger than 1GB, then check the interleave setting, it should be set at 1 frame for large AVI files.

> The Spark card is a 'bus-mastering' card, and needs to be in a slot that allows for this to happen. These are usually the first four slots that are closest to the processor. Try not to use a slot greater than four.

> Make sure the Spark has its own interrupt request (IRQ). Check this in device manager, select the computer, then click on properties. This should list all devices in the computer that use IRQs. If one is being shared with the Spark, try moving the IRQ of the other device inside Windows, if this isn't possible, some BIOS manipulations may have to be performed. It may be necessary to physically move the card around, trading places with other cards as necessary.

> Ensure that the SCSI drive is terminated properly. If a lot of spiking up and down is witnessed with Benchpress, it is most likely there is a termination problem.

> If the Spark app doesn't output to camera, try using Video Action. 

> Although initial reports suggest that the core DLLs are the same as the latest beta release, it may be of use to try Hot Connect Ultra 2 from Adaptec as a replacement for the Spark drivers. Get the latest releases from Adaptec here.

> To narrow down playback failure causes, load a recently captured AVI into the Spark app. Select Monitor Out to get the image out to the DV device and then wait - do not press play. If the picture remains on your video monitor and the firewire connection is retained for more than fifteen minutes then it's possibly a problem with the hard drive, SCSI connection, system speed etc. If the system fails even without playing the AVI, then the Spark app is being interrupted by another application or there's a possible malfunction with the wn1394.vxd file. Check in Properties that wn1394.vxd in Win\System is at least version xxxxxx.30 or xxxxxx.32.

> If all else fails, it might be necessary to refresh the system from scratch. This could involve low leveling the hard drives and re-installing the OS. As any number of software drivers could be the cause of the system's failures, initially only install drivers from disks that came with the computer. It's also important to remember that only essential software should be loaded onto the system, as unnecessary third party applications might overwrite working DLLs with incompatible ones. If possible, try swapping hardware cards one by one with known working peripherals. Keep testing the system at various stages and do not install further apps if a problem is suspected. Sometimes the most bizarre and unthinkable reasons are the cause of system failures... Keep at it and good Luck!

> Color/luminance shifts with transitions. Apparently only affects PAL systems with MMX processors in them. It is currently not known what causes it or how to properly remedy it.
Grateful thanks to all of the unnamed people who have devoted years of effort, offering help and advice to people on the Spark forum. If it wasn't for them, this document wouldn't exist, and ZKad Productions wouldn't have a working system. Some of them are no longer with us unfortunately, with them understandably jumping ship to Canopuscorp.com's forums, and I'm afraid that I may be joining them soon [Note: he did. -AJW].

Special thanks to...

Adam Wilt, Sean Malloy, Burton E. Cohen, Robert J Bertrand, Robert D Phares, Robert G Nolty, Nick Appleton, Richard H Heeren, Karel Holubicka, Scott Burris, Rick MacDonald, Dave B Hiebert, Richard Lin, Mark Hlousek, Jeremy Buttell, Jason Powell, Thomas Leong, Daniel W Zink, Fred Meeson, Michael Yeager and DPS's very own Michael Davidson, Jie Chen, Neil Henderson, Frank White and Shari Beck.
Apologies if your name was left off. Also, if you have tips or advice then please email them to Adam Wilt (see email below) and it will be added to this page in due course.
-Vynny Ward, ZKad Productions
This page is dedicated to all the long suffering Spark users out there
ZKad Productions is in no way affiliated with Digital Processing Systems (DPS) or Adaptec. We accept no responsibility for any errors in the above text or from problems that may arise from executing any or all of the processes included on this website. It's recommended that common sense is exercised, and pending projects should be completed and the system should be fully backed up before making any changes. Problems may occur that prevent the system from working or booting up. ZKad's Legal Notice page.
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Copyright (c) 1999 by Vynny Ward and Adam J. Wilt.
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Last updated 12 July 2000.